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Jackson case cost Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Dept. $3 million

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Two weeks after a Santa Maria jury acquitted Michael Jackson of child molestation and related charges, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department estimated that it spent a little more than $3 million to investigate the pop star and provide security for his trial.

The preliminary estimate of costs associated with the case against Jackson shows that roughly $1.3 million was spent on the investigation between the 2003 and 2005 fiscal years, $1.1 million of which went toward the regular salaries of the deputies.

Of the $1.7 million spent on security at the trial, roughly $1.3 million went toward the regular salaries of the deputies assigned to the courthouse.

"The real distinction is you've got regular salaries - money paid out anyway; whether they're investigating burglary, homicide, or allegations against Jackson, those are positions that are already being paid," said Sgt. Erik Raney, public information officer for the sheriff's department.

Raney also said that the books won't be closed on this fiscal year until July 8, so a few small changes could be added to the current estimate.

Even with roughly $97,000 in overtime costs and another nearly $80,000 in extra help, travel, and other expenses, Raney said the costs associated with the Jackson investigation aren't too different from any large-scale investigation. The extra courthouse security was another matter.

"It was unprecedented in that respect. It was something well above and beyond anything we've come to expect with high-profile cases," Raney said. "But complex homicide investigations or other complex investigations where a lot of work needs to be done, they tend to be expensive and involved.

But the department answered the call of duty, he said. Raney also noted that the deputies succeeded in maintaining the peace around the courthouse.

"The amount of resources and the cost of the security were really directly in response to the amount of interest in that particular trial from the public and the media," he said. "We had an obligation and duty to respond in the level that we did."

The security costs include:

$1,252,775 in regular salaries.

$347,307 in overtime salaries.

$117,828 in extra help (part-timers or retired deputies).

$35,493 in food/other expenses.

Those expenses could be reimbursed if the state Legislature approves a bill from Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. SB 827 would reimburse the county for the costs of providing security and ensuring public safety in and around the courthouse. Similar legislation has helped counties recoup expenses that went toward the Rex Allan Krebs and Scott Peterson trials.

-A.R.

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